Financial Fitness Bootcamp: Event Recap

As a young woman starting out on my journey to adulthood, I’ve slowly come to the realization that it is a lot harder than anyone ever told me. Case in point: my finances. Growing up we are hardly taught in school how to be financially responsible, so unless you are lucky enough to have parents that would discuss finances, most of us are left to figure it out on our own. This is especially hard for women as the traditional role in the household has not been one responsible for financial decisions.

This past weekend, with the help of Darlene Patgunarajah, Melanie Laing, and Emilia Romano, YWiB Toronto held its Financial Fitness Bootcamp to help introduce key concepts and important information to a group of women (and men) interested in taking control of their finances. Some of the takeaways from the workshop include:

Pay yourself first

Savings and investments are an important part of building a financial safeguard. Having a mix of savings (RSPs, TFSA, long-term, short-term and emergency funds) and investments (mutual funds, GICs, stocks, etc.), are key to becoming financially secure, but having all these accounts can leave you feeling overwhelmed and intimidated. To combat this, our financial advisors suggest setting up automatic transfers to your savings and investment accounts. At first it might seem scary having money automatically come out of your account, but after a while you adjust and learn to live within what’s left. Remember it’s not about how much you make, but how much you spend.

Get a Financial Planner that suits you

For many of us, finances is a stressful topic, especially when we deal with it on our own. Luckily, there are people out there to support you. Financial Planners/Advisors are a great resource for helping you derive a plan for your future by looking at the big picture. The key is finding one that reflects your comfort level. If you are a conservative investor, a Financial Planner that is more aggressive isn’t for you, and vise-versa. Money and finances are already anxiety-provoking topics so finding someone that you are comfortable with is key to creating a financial plan suited for you and your needs. When looking for a Financial Planner, don’t be afraid to shop around and even interview them, they are there to provide a service that you are paying for, so don’t settle for the first one you meet.

Get insured

Like many others my age, I didn’t really think I needed insurance because I don’t have any dependents or assets that may be at risk if something were to happen to me. But the truth is you do, and it’s actually better to get it at a younger age. Not only are you more likely to pay lower premiums (because you are young and healthy), but it also helps when you are ready to buy a house and it will help your family with any remaining costs/debts (i.e. funeral costs, remaining student debt, co-signers on your mortgage, etc.).

Re-evaluate your Mindset

As one of our facilitators Darlene put it “the biggest detractor to success in financial health is mindset”. With that said, it’s important that as young women we take the time to think about our relationship with money and address our unhealthy habits/attitudes. Whether you grew up with parents who were tight with their money, or ones that bought any and everything, we all hold certain ideologies towards our finances. Deciphering those attitudes is as much a part of financial planning as budgeting and saving; no matter how good your financial plan is, it is useless if we can’t follow through with it. Do you really need that new pair of shoes? Can you wait a couple more months for that vacation? Changing your relationship with money changes your priorities.

Leaving the workshop, I felt empowered and excited about conquering my financials. For me, the biggest take away from the workshop was realizing that it’s okay to not know everything, because there are people out there to help. There is an abundance of information available to you - all you must do is ask. Taking on the challenge that is financial planning becomes a lot easier when you start asking questions because once you start you’ll never stop.  


Other Resources:

The Wealthy Barber & The Wealthy Barber Returns - David Chilton

The Debt Escape Plan - Beverly Harzog

It's Your Money: Becoming a Woman of Independent Means - Gail Vaz-Oxlade

Nudge - Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein

The Art of Money - by Bari Tessler


Written by: Ashleigh H.

Financial Fitness Bootcamp: Darlene Patgunarajah

Ready to get your finances in order? Join our Financial Fitness Bootcamp on January 27th to tackle those holiday bills and start your year right. Get your ticket now.

Darlene Patgunarajah.jpg

It’s 2018 which means it’s time to set some goals! Whether you are looking to pay off that school loan or open your own business, getting your finances in order is a pivotal part of your success in the new year. That’s why YWiB Toronto has teamed up with Darlene Patgunarajah  to talk about the importance of financial literacy and the misconceptions young people have about their finances.

How and why did you get involved in financial literacy?

Education has always been a common thread throughout my career.  In healthcare, teaching is an important part of the health professional’s relationship with their patients.  As a financial advisor, education is also a significant part of the client-advisor relationship.  Without knowledge and some basic literacy - whether in relation to your health or your finances - you can’t make informed and educated decisions about either.

Do you think most young people today have a grasp on their finances?

My short answer is “No”, but it depends on the person. With young people there are a lot of misconceptions around finances tied in with the need for immediate gratification. People are looking for a quick buck, and not at the long-term planning it usually takes.  We were never taught about finances at any point during our school years, so there is very poor financial literacy going into adulthood. People are learning through observing what their friends and family are doing, or hearing through media the hottest stock picks while at the same time becoming disillusioned by insane house prices. Learning it as you face the realities of being an adult isn’t the best way to go about it.

What do you think is the biggest misconception young people have when it comes to finances?

There’s this consumer mentality that everyone needs to have the latest tech, trendiest clothes or most epic experience.  With the blow up of social media it takes “keeping up with the Joneses’” to a whole new level. It screws up their perception of reality and they’re not being smart about their choices and priorities. They’re afraid to say no to the bachelorette party in Miami and there’s a pressure there.  It’s that whole YOLO or FOMO culture. That, combined with money having been so cheap to borrow, snowballs into a huge problem with debt and financial stability.

Why do you think financial literacy is particularly important for women?

Women are now equal in terms of their economic power.  We (women) are making the money and the decisions around it.  There is no longer a dependency on a partner for our financial stability.   Combined with the fact that women are also becoming more entrepreneurial, its even more important now that we have a solid understanding of how money works.

What is a personal lesson you learned about financials, saving or investing that you want to pass to our audience?

The biggest detractor to success in financial health is mindset.  As children we’ve internalized the relationship our parents had with money, their beliefs and values, which then informs our own relationship with money. In many cases, our handling of money is a reflection of our own self-worth and beliefs about ourselves. Unless part of your financial coaching or planning addresses the emotions around money, you won’t have the discipline or the emotional capacity to follow it. It’s not just about getting a plan in place or saving money, its about figuring out what are your deep-down money scripts and dialogues are making conscious efforts to reprogram it.

Darlene's professional experience is rooted in healthcare and teaching - which has given her a unique perspective and passionate approach to financial health and financial literacy.  She believes that at the heart of the financial advising profession is education, collaboration, and relationship building.  She is enthusiastic about integrating technology not only into her practice for efficient administration but also for enabling better client engagement.   She serves clients all over the GTA, developing a niche in the small business owner community.  She lives with her husband and her two young and very energetic sons in Vaughan.


Written by: Ashleigh H.


Financial Fitness Bootcamp: Melanie Laing

Ready to get your finances in order? Join our Financial Fitness Bootcamp on January 27th to tackle those holiday bills and start your year right. Get your ticket now.


It’s officially 2018! 'Tis the season of New Year resolutions and goal setting. In 2018, the ladies of YWiB Toronto want you to be able to take control of your financials. Finance isn’t always a trendy topic, but it’s an important one for us to understand so that we’re able to achieve whatever we want in our lives.

While we understand the importance of financial literacy, we can’t pretend that it is something we’re extremely knowledgeable on. That’s why we sat down with Melanie Laing, Financial Security Advisor at Freedom 55 Financial, so we can get fresh with financials. Here’s what Melanie had to say:

1. To begin, how and why did you get involved in financial literacy?

I’ve always been driven to put myself in the best financial position possible, but despite wanting to do that, I felt totally ill equipped to handle the situation on my own after graduating university and looking to buy my first home. This is a feeling I know a lot of young people have upon leaving school. During this time, I was also planning on moving to Toronto, but the timing needed to be right and I needed to figure out what I wanted to do once getting here. I started doing my research and talking to friends and family in the financial services industry in order to understand how I can help people in my role. I guess the ‘how’ of why I got involved in financial literacy is through months of deliberation and conversations with my spouse, but the ‘why’ is driven by wanting to be a part of something that not only helps people, but equips them with the tools to make informed financial decisions in today’s economy and environment.

As young people, recent graduates, entrepreneurs, etc. we cannot rely on ‘flying by the seat of our pants’ if we want to get ahead professionally or financially, so if I can help people with their goals by explaining basic financial principles to them, that is a win for me!

2. Do you think most young people today understand financial literacy? Why do you think it’s important for young people to take this seriously?

Unfortunately, I don’t think most young people today have a good understanding of financial literacy, which, to be honest, is of no fault of their own. Apart from the way in which you ‘grew’ up with money, and how conversations were handled in your household as a kid, we are left to our own devices in trying to navigate the world of personal finance. I don’t think we can stress the importance of financial literacy enough and I hope that some of the changes made to curriculums across the country will improve the attention and knowledge of young Canadians for years to come.

That being said, for those of us who were not taught the basic principles or processes required for one to take care of their personal finances, we need to take it seriously and invest the time to learn. Young people today have to take their situation and finances seriously in order to ensure they can live the life they want to live now and in the future. An environment where the majority of people’s retirements are funded by company pensions does not exist anymore, so we need to be cognizant from a young age about what steps are going to help us.

3. What is the greatest challenge your clients (and young people in general) tend to face when it comes their finances?

I think for young people in general, the greatest challenge is the fact that change is inevitable so it’s hard to know what to do when your life is changing so rapidly and big life events are occurring (think: marriage, buying a home, starting a family, growing your career). That combined with the fact that many young people are focused on eliminating student debt and getting their careers started, it can be a challenge to consider all the other aspects of your financial plan.

4. Finally, What advice would you give to young professionals in Toronto who want to live a comfortable life that allows them to have a house, car, go on vacation, etc.?

I’d have to say two things. First, it’s okay to say ‘no.’ I think young people have a tendency to do things they don’t really want to do and spend money they shouldn’t in order to keep up with their peer group or appearances, which puts them in a stressful financial position and can compromise their ability to reach more ambitious goals. Be confident in your decisions and your plan to get there.

Second, and a common saying among the financial services industry, ‘pay yourself first.’ What I mean by this is set up a savings plan where contributions are taken from your account automatically each week, month, etc. We have an amazing ability to live off the money we ‘don’t’ have, so start thinking of your savings as an financial obligation and you will be able to accomplish some of those personal finance goals like owning a home and travelling.

If you’re looking to get your finances in order this year so you can achieve your dreams, then this workshop is for you! See you on January 27th!

Written by: Kate Taylor

Financial Fitness Bootcamp: Emilia Romano

Financial Fitness Bootcamp: Emilia Romano

Meet Emilia, one of our workshop hosts!

Emilia is the Director of Marketing at Imperial Lifestyle Management. Her passion is everything marketing! With an extensive background in marketing, brand awareness, business development and graphic design along with a proven ability to coordinate the planning, development and execution of strategic marketing initiatives to drive desired results. Emilia’s greatest strengths are her creativity, drive and leadership. She thrives on challenges, particularly those that expand the company’s reach.

YWiB Toronto sat down with Emilia to learn more about how she got her start in the financial field, and what she thinks young women today most need to know.

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Spotlight: Left Field Brewery

This fall, we began hosting monthly networking nights around Toronto giving young women in business even more of an opportunity to get together and chat in an open and inviting space.

Having worked with Left Field Brewery many times in the past, I suggested the venue as the ideal environment for the YWiB community to get together for a drink (or flight!) and some good conversation. We held our first event there in September for an intimate gathering of passion young professionals.


Established in Toronto in April 2013, Left Field Brewery is a baseball-inspired tap room, with accompanying brews. Their brand is born from a passion for craft beer and baseball, and their unique and full-flavoured beers do not disappoint.

Left Field celebrates the community in a variety of ways, from hosting pop-up shops for local restaurants, workshops with local artisans (including myself!), and collaborating with other breweries on tasty new brews.

Pictured: Our group from the October networking night

Pictured: Our group from the October networking night

Located in the Leslieville area at 36 Wagstaff Drive, Left Field is the great place to spend an evening with a partner, friend, or any baseball and beer lover. Check out their family (and dog!) friendly Tap Room and Bottle Shop from 11am - 9pm daily. Want to learn even more? Check out their brewery tours every Saturday and Sunday at 2pm. You won’t be disappointed.

Written by: Victoria Stacey

Finding Your Winter Uniform


I feel like for most of Winter, I end up in what I would call my "winter uniform": black pants, a cute top, and some form of booties. There's nothing wrong with this look, but it can get a little bit monotonous. I start to feel like I'm in a fashion rut. So I started talking with a friend, whose style I admire, about her winter uniform. Tracey has a great aesthetic; a lot of really classically designed, neutral pieces combined with tailored silhouettes. This is almost the opposite from my style. I love color. I like exploring new and out there patterns and textures. I decided to try to dabble in a little bit of what I would call "her style" and I have to say, it was not as easy as I thought it was going to be. In this post, I'm going to talk about how to step out of your bubble and find a new winter uniform. 

The first step in changing up your winter style is identifying what your current winter wardrobe is. Do you wear a lot of chunky, oversized sweaters and riding boots? Are you constantly in dark washed jeans? Are there any items in your closet you wear excessively? As I said before, a black Ponte pant, a cute sweater, and some form of boot is my winter go-to. I can admit that I am guilty of over using this outfit. Every now and then, I might mix it up by adding a blazer or a scarf, but the key elements remain the same. 

After identifying your current style choice, the next step is to look for something outside of those bounds. What do I mean, you ask? I mean look for something different in terms of silhouette, texture, or color. For me, I always wear brightly colored tops and black skinnies, so I decided to go with a more neutral palette and joggers. By changing both the silhouette and the color scheme, this outfit is already wildly different from what I would usually wear. These differences help to push me in a new direction and to expand my fashion horizon. 

The final step in creating a new winter go-to is to pay attention to the details. Accessories matter! The winter white clutch I'm carrying with this look really compliments the silver tone of the sweater. If I had chosen a black bag or even a camel colored bag, it would not have matched as well with the mostly navy look I was going for. In turn, the metallic of the sweater pairs well with the dramatic earrings I'm wearing. The scarf matches back to the pants and the pumps in a way that ties the entire look together. Each accessory is a small portion of the entire outfit, but it is an important factor in the overall look. 

Sweater: H&M
Joggers: Asos Curve
Clutch: BCBGeneration
Pumps: Cole Haan
Scarf: Target
Earrings: Target and Forever 21

Photo credit: S. Hoffman

Chelsea Madkins is a shoe buyer for Dillard’s department store. On the side she runs the fashion blog, Obsessions of a Fashion Nerd. It is her goal to help women feel not only more comfortable, but more confidence in and empowered by what clothing they wear.
Follow her on Instagram: obsessionsofafashionnerd


Why You Should Stop Spending to Keep Up with the Joneses


One of the struggles I face as a blogger (*gasp*) is how to constantly come up with new content without breaking the bank. I always want to make sure I am bringing something new and exciting to my audience. In this social media obsessed day and age, it is very easy to look around and see all the things you don't have and feel discouraged. This is something that I don't think anyone is immune to.  When I look at some of my favorite bloggers, Rochelle JohnsonGabi Gregg, and Anna Obrien it is easy to get a case of the wants. Having said that, I know that I cannot constantly be spending on clothing. It is very easy for a small shopping bug to get you into serious credit card debt. As a blogger, I have to budget for apparel like I would a business expense. So when I get the itch for something new but it is not in the budget, I turn to my closet and see what old pieces I can revamp to make feel new again. (You may remember the skirt from this post.) In this post, I am going to share five steps on how you can do the same.

5) Look at the new trends for the season and see what you are inspired by. For me, I am really loving the tapestry inspired looks and pearls. I have been seeing pearls as embellishments on shoes, apparel, and handbags. I like that both would add elements of sheen and texture to my outfits. Think about the trends you like and make sure they are things that are going to work with your overall look. It defeats the purpose if you have to buy another item just to wear whatever piece you revamp. What trends are you noticing for fall?

4) Go to your closet and look for an item that you may have once loved, but are not getting a lot of wear out of. Have you worn the item in the last four months? Could the styling of this piece work with the new trend? Is the piece very simple in its styling? Pearls are an easy trend to incorporate in an outfit; you can sew them on by hand. I scavenged mine from an old bracelet I no longer wear. The same less is more policy can work for the tapestry/embroidery look. A needle and thread will cost way less than a new skirt.

3) Develop a game plan for how to alter your forgotten favorite. For this skirt, I knew I wanted it to have a fuller body and that I wanted it to be shorter. This was simple to fix by cutting off a few inches and sewing on additional layers of tulle. I also wanted to have pearls thrown throughout the skirt in a random pattern. For this, I got a thicker thread to hand stitch the pearls on. The happenstance placement would allow the pearls to catch light throughout the skirt. 

2) Gather the supplies needed to transform your piece. For me, it was extra tulle, pearls, thread, and a pair of scissors. Be sure to check around your home for things that can be reused. Walmart and craft stores are great to load up in supplies for future projects. The point of this entire project is to make it high fashion, but keep it low budget.

1) Alter your piece. There are a ton of tutorials on YouTube if you need help. I have been blessed that my mom taught me to sew at a young age. I started by creating two tulle ruffles and sewing them onto the elastic waistband. Once I saw how long the layers were, I shortened and hemmed the original skirt to match. The pearls were hand stitched on to finish off my project. I now have a one of kind piece that not only fulfills my need for something new, but acts as a creative outlet as well.

Tank: Donna Karan
Skirt: formerly Gap
Booties: Gianni Bini, via Dillard's
Jacket: Elvi
Necklace: Creative, South on Main
Earrings: Aldo. Clutch: Aryn

Photo Credit: J. Vige

Chelsea Madkins is a shoe buyer for Dillard’s department store. On the side she runs the fashion blog, Obsessions of a Fashion Nerd. It is her goal to help women feel not only more comfortable, but more confidence in and empowered by what clothing they wear.
Follow her on Instagram: obsessionsofafashionnerd